Two of the most important athletes for the University of Utah this past year were Delon Wright and Devontae Booker. Each were arguably the best player not only for their teams but at their position in the conference. Both took similar routes to becoming leaders for their teams arriving via the junior college route. Wright is recently graduated and will not return next season, while Booker will be back for one more year. Looking back on this past basketball and football seasons which player was more important to their team?
Booker was a revelation at running back for the Utes. Entering the season, the running back position was a question mark and Booker was able to answer that question to become one of the best backs in the nation. Booker burst onto the scene, averaging 116.3 yards per game and rushing for a season total of 1,512 yards. His total rushing yards were good for second all time for a single season in Utah history. All this came after splitting carries during the first three games of the season. Without Booker the Utah offense lacked a legitimate ground game and with inconsistent quarterback play, the Utes would have struggled mightily to match the success they achieved in 2014.
Delon Wright was the clear leader for the basketball team heading into this past season. Wright had established himself the season prior, giving the Runnin Utes a dynamic player that could both handle the ball and score. This past season, Wright led the team into the sweet sixteen of the NCAA tournament. He led the team throughout the season in a variety of ways depending on the game, sometimes with scoring, other times by distributing the ball to the hot hand.
In analyzing who was the more important player to their team, it's hard not to give the nod to Wright. Due to the fact that at any given point during a basketball game there are only five players on the floor for a team, a single player has a greater opportunity to influence the course of games and in turn entire seasons. That's not the only reason Wright gets the nod however.
As mentioned earlier Booker did not really establish himself until the Washington State game, which somewhat ironically the Utes lost. Prior to that game, Utah was 3-0 including a win over Michigan in the Big House. The Utes were able to accomplish their 3-0 start with Booker only rushing for 179 total yards during the first three games, including only 34 yards against Michigan. While Booker was indeed instrumental in Utah's success moving through the season, and in fact was responsible for the Utes winning many of their games, the 3-0 start shows the team was able to win in a variety of situations with minimal contributions from Booker.
Delon Wright on the other hand was the floor leader for the Utes on the hardwood. Even when Wright did not fill up the points column on the stat sheet, he was responsible for creating opportunities for his teammates by drawing double teams, distributing the ball and playing lockdown defense on an opponent's best player. Wright was the unquestioned leader for the basketball team, through which Krystkowiak's entire strategy revolved. Wright's importance to the team was clearly evidenced in the final game of the season, when he was forced to leave late in the first half against Duke, after picking up his third foul. The Runnin Utes appeared lost without him on the floor and Duke was able to go on a run that changed the momentum of the game. When Wright returned in the second half, the Utes were able to fight their way back into the game before falling just short. Without Wright the Utes would not have made the Sweet Sixteen and may not have reached the tournament.
Both are tremendous players and overall athletes. Without either, their respective teams would have come up short of the success enjoyed this season. Without Booker it's possible the Utah offense is not able to score enough points to pull out wins against Oregon State, USC and UCLA, meaning no bowl game. However due to the fact that football provides so many different players an opportunity to contribute as opposed to basketball, and the fact the football team was able to win with limited action from Booker, the nod for most important player for the past season goes to Delon Wright.
Do you agree or disagree? Or is there a different player you think is being overlooked? Let us know in the comments!